Countdown to USDC – 8 Days: I’m Completely Calm (and My Pants are on Fire)

Preface: I almost deleted this post after I wrote it. Because I know I have covered all of this before. The problem with struggles like mine is people get tired of hearing about them because they don’t understand why I don’t just get over it. Especially when I have documented success at the things I have anxiety and insecurities over. But the fact of the matter is this is a long-term project. I could win 10 more competitions and still struggle with fear and self-doubt. My goal with this blog is and always will be to be honest and open about those struggles. Hopefully, it doesn’t get too repetitive for you.

In less than a week, I get on a plane to fly to Florida. Eight days until I dance. I can’t decide if I want this last week to hurry up or slow down. I lean toward hurry up. The anticipation anxiety is always much worse than the anxiety at the actual event. And with it also being almost a week until I meet up with Teacher again, I’ve pretty much entered full panic mode. Which means I’ve gotten very quiet.

But you, my lucky readers, get a glimpse into the storm raging below the seemingly calm surface.

In stressful situations, the logical side of my brain takes over. It’s all about logistics. What needs to get done. So I appear calm and focused. And I am. Until the crisis is over and I reconnect with my emotional side, which then takes the time it needs to freak out and process whatever just happened.

With the upcoming event, it’s a little more challenging. My logical side is trying to keep control, but my emotional side, full of demons, is getting cranky at being ignored. Or not indulged, I should say. Because I don’t think I’m ignoring or denying my fears and concerns, I’m just not dwelling on them. When panic starts to boil up over silver choreography confusion, I pat it back down and remind it that silver is a bonus round. When general fear of making a fool of myself arises, I remind it of my success at competitions to date and of the fact that I won’t be alone out there on the dancefloor. But this is a new tactic, my demons aren’t used to being gently patted on the head and told to go back to their corners. They want attention, dammit!

So while logic strains to maintain control, panic looms just under the surface. I feel like I need the Jaws theme song playing. The challenge is the extra energy needed to not focus on the demons is limiting how many logistics I can handle. So even though to the untrained eye, I appear quiet and focused, I’m just trying not to freak out as final preparations are made.

I think I handled Monday’s lesson ok though. Every mistake I made threatened to push me over the edge, but I held on. I focused very carefully on Teacher’s advice on how to correct my errors, so I could get rid of them as soon as they popped up instead of focusing on the mistakes themselves.

That focus left little capacity in me for conversation or emotional processing. Teacher was also offering a lot of words of encouragement, but it was hard to hear them. Like someone calling to you from the other side of thick glass. You can see them talking, but it’s hard to comprehend what they’re saying. What? I did what there? I did well? Huh?

Lucky for me, Teacher knows me well enough by now to know quiet does not equal calm and a lack of reaction to praise doesn’t mean I’m not appreciative. I actually cracked a slight smile when another teacher asked him how I was doing and he said “she’s freaking out!” as I appeared to calmly follow him across the studio. It’s hilarious because it’s true.

Thank goodness I don’t have to communicate it, he just knows now and keeps nudging me along. Or shoving when I start to really shut down! I am very lucky to have a teacher that will keep knocking down the walls to get through to me, no matter how many go up.

But now Teacher has seven (yes, seven!) students to dance with at another big competition before he goes to Florida with me. So no more lessons until maybe this weekend. Which means I am on my own to practice and maintain some semblance of composure. So what am I going to do to avoid a messy and potentially embarrassing meltdown?

Practice! I’m not one of those people who meditates and can find peace by sitting quietly and just thinking about how things will turn out ok. I am action-oriented! I need to DO something. But it remains to be seen if I will be able to get into the studio. The hours are based on the teachers’ schedules. If everyone is at the big comp this week, then the studio won’t be open. Fingers crossed someone will be there! My living room isn’t exactly made for doing rounds.

Make lists. To do lists, don’t forget lists, grocery lists for my hotel room meals. Lists help me feel like there is some order to the chaos. And I’m always paranoid about forgetting something, so I make lists.

Go to sleep earlier. I have an early bedtime (around 9:30) because I get up at 5am during the week. On bad days, I’ll go to bed even earlier. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses on making a day better and just get moving toward a fresh one.

Attempt to distract myself. I’m a big fan of shows like NCIS, Criminal Minds, and Castle. Lucky for me, there is usually a marathon of at least one of these shows always running on one channel or another. And if not, there is Netflix. Nothing like watching people try to catch a serial killer to take your mind off your competition worries! A glass of wine helps too.

This week will be a challenge, no doubt. And I suspect a little lonely. Like I said, I won’t hear from or see Teacher because he will be busy with his other students. It’s one of those odd conundrums of being the am in a pro-am partnership. Your teacher is your only partner. But they have many partners to take care of. So you have to deal with a lot on your own that you wouldn’t in other partnerships, whether personal or business. Plus you’re dealing with things on unequal levels, amateur versus professional.

The good news is I know of at least one day where I will be able to get into the studio if I go right after work to practice.

I may be panicking, but I’m still getting on that plane. I may be terrified when I go out on the floor, but I will smile. I forget who said it originally and I know I’m paraphrasing, but I always remember that courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s doing the things you fear despite it. Some things about ballroom competition terrify me. But the other things, the things about ballroom that make me feel alive and more true to myself, are more important.

Eight more days…

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